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New Platforms of Cooperation Needed to Spur Growth and Innovation in the MENA

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The Kingdom of Jordan aims to build on the foundation of its young population to spur economic growth and innovation, said H.M. King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the opening plenary session of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, taking place at the Dead Sea.

“Our most important strength is Jordan’s high-skill human capital,” said the king. “Our young people are globally connected, tech-savvy, fluent in multiple languages and determined to succeed. They are proven assets to every enterprise. And we have already seen this strength at work, in the success of Jordan’s ICT industry, which has created thousands of new jobs and accessed markets across the region and beyond.”

H.M. King Abdullah II added: “Women are a critical part of our economic future.”

Reflecting on the theme of the meeting, Building New Platforms of Cooperation, the king stressed that “It takes a broad partnership to create a platform for economic growth – private-sector investment and productivity at every level, including small and medium-sized enterprises; a public sector that supports business confidence and economic success; and global partners to flow investments into positive futures.”

Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, picked up on the theme of cooperation. “In this digital age where physical borders no longer exist to protect even the most secure nations, the only way to overcome predatory and divisionary forces is for all well-meaning nations to work together for the greater good of mankind,” he said. “Simply put, cooperation among sovereign nations is no longer a choice. It is an absolute necessity.”

The Nigerian president stated: “In the last 10 years, the world as we knew it has completely changed” due to factors such as technology, demographic shifts and migration, trade and geopolitics, and climate change. Countries of the MENA region and sub-Saharan Africa have had to combat terrorism, including the threat of Boko Haram in his country.

On the topic of economic diversification and social inclusion policies, including efforts to expand the agricultural sector, Buhari noted: “In this new world without borders, my personal view is that stability and sustainability can only be achieved through inclusive economic growth, and enhanced cooperation among nations.”

Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, New York, said that he hopes that the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will build on recent official meetings in London and Brussels to help bring “growth and prosperity” to Jordan and the rest of the region. Guterres also called for “a two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “with Jerusalem as the capital of the two countries.”

The UN leader added: “The most systemic challenge we face today is climate change.” While noting recent extreme events around the globe, such as fires in California and flooding in Mozambique, he drove the issue home by noting the “increased water stress” in Jordan and the rest of the region. “It is high time that we have more urgency and ambition.” The UN will host a climate change summit in New York in September. “I am asking leaders to come not with speeches, but with plans” for mitigation, adaptation and finance, he said. “Countries like Jordan that do not contribute that much to climate change cannot be among the biggest victims.”

In his welcoming remarks, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, outlined what he called “five platforms for cooperation” that will shape the meeting at the Dead Sea: New economic and social models; the Fourth Industrial Revolution; entrepreneurship and innovation; environmental stewardship; and peace and reconciliation.

“The future cannot be built by government alone, or by business alone, or by civil society alone,” Schwab said. Instead, he called for “more inclusive and collaborative ways in which to tackle common challenges.”

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ADB Project to Improve Fiscal Management, Develop Capital Markets in Armenia

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $40 million-equivalent policy-based loan attached to reforms that help strengthen fiscal sustainability and develop the financial and capital markets in Armenia. These are crucial enablers of private sector development.

Armenia’s economic growth over the last few years has been hampered by low levels of investment, both foreign and domestic, given the high costs of local currency finance and related constraints in the financial system. Efficiency-promoting upgrades in public investment and fiscal management are also needed to ensure sustained improvements in fiscal outlook and sovereign risk pricing.

“Financial markets remain nascent in Armenia, which limits the development of the country’s private sector and the banking industry,” said ADB Senior Financial Sector Economist for Central and West Asia Mr. João Farinha Fernandes. “This also constrains public finance and fiscal management, while exposing the economy to financial stability risks. ADB’s assistance is intended to help ensure that Armenia develops a conducive fiscal and financial intermediation environment where private sector players, both big and small, can contribute to growth and development.”

ADB approved a $50 million policy-based loan in November 2018 as part of an ongoing programmatic engagement on financial reforms to strengthen public debt and fiscal risk management, and to develop financial markets in Armenia.

The Second Public Efficiency and Financial Markets Program continues these reforms by strengthening the effectiveness of the government’s fiscal risk management function; promoting the development of fiscally responsible public–private partnerships; and enhancing market transparency and predictability in public debt management. The program will also improve the infrastructure of the government securities market and money market infrastructure, enhancing the sustainability and resilience of Armenia’s finance sector.

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Bangladesh Can Boost its Exports with Better Logistics

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To meet the needs of its growing economy and to boost export growth, Bangladesh needs to improve its transport and logistics systems, says a new World Bank report launched today. 

The report Moving Forward: Connectivity and Logistics to Sustain Bangladesh’s Success, finds that by making logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly boost export growth, maintain its position as a leading ready-made-garments and textile producer, and create more jobs. The report notes that congestion on roads and in seaports, high logistics costs, inadequate infrastructure, distorted logistics service markets, and fragmented governance hamper manufacturing and freight, further eroding Bangladesh’s competitive edge and putting its robust growth path at risk. 

“Bangladesh’s congested transportation and often unsophisticated logistics systems impose high costs to the economy,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “By making its logistics more efficient, Bangladesh can significantly optimize its connectivity, business environment, and competitiveness, putting the country on the right path to become a dynamic upper-middle-income country.”

Efficient logistics, the report argues, has become one of the main drivers for global trade competitiveness and export growth and diversification. For Bangladesh, improving its logistics performance provides an opportunity to increase its world market share in garments and textiles, which account for 84 percent of its total exports, expand into new markets, and diversify its manufacturing and agriculture into high-value products. 

The report notes that improving Bangladesh’s logistics requires a system-wide approach based on greater coordination among all public institutions involved in logistics and with the private sector, increasing the effective capacity of core infrastructure, and removing distortions in logistics service markets to reduce costs and improve quality. At a regional level, harmonizing its logistics systems and aligning its customs with that of its neighbors could turn Bangladesh into an important node for regional freight flows and further boost its trade. 

“There’s no doubt that reforms and investments for better transport and logistics will yield Bangladesh substantial economic benefits and strengthen its competitive advantage,” said Matías Herrera Dappe, Senior Economist at the World Bank and author of the report. “But the solution to logistics is not just to invest more but to invest better, by focusing on the service gap, and creating the incentives for high quality and competitive logistics services.”

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New development models to drive growth and employment for youth in Africa

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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today launched the Global Environment Outlook-6 (GEO-6) for Youth in Africa report on the margins of the 17th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN).

The report analyses the economic opportunities that Africa’s natural resources can provide for job creation and sustainable development. It also provides a package of solutions to tackle Africa’s youth unemployment through the Green Economy.

“This Publication is anchored substantively in the UNEP’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO-6) Regional Assessment for Africa,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa. “This Assessment has a very clear message; Africa has an opportunity to use its large young population to drive its growth.”

Africa’s youth remains the most hit by unemployment. One-third of Africa’s 420 million youth aged 15 to 35 are unemployed. Of these, 35 per cent are vulnerably employed and 19 per cent are inactive. These numbers will increase dramatically unless urgent actions are not taken.

The report recommends that Africa’s natural capital should be managed sustainably to enhance the livelihoods of African young population, create more sustainable and decent jobs as well as increase social and economic cohesion.

“The Green Economy calls for a paradigm shift in the way that we produce and consume. If young people are the centre of such a shift, they will secure a sustainable future replete with sustainable livelihoods,” said Professor Lee White, Minister for Environment, Forest and Oceans of Gabon and outgoing President of AMCEN. “The Global Environment Outlook-6 for Youth, Africa: A Wealth of Green Opportunities digs deep into that future and shows young people how they can secure their livelihoods through green jobs.”

Natural resources remain a key source of employment in Africa. Eight out of ten people’s employment on the continent are supported by natural resources. Nearly six million Africans are employed in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, ten million people work in the wildlife sector and an average of 54 per cent in the agricultural sector.

The report includes case studies and success stories on African youth who have invested in natural resources to develop entrepreneurship, improve their knowledge and skills as well as create jobs and sustain their livelihoods.

The report calls on governments to encourage youth to invest in green economy through creating platforms for innovation in sustainable development. While confirming the potential of youth in leading green growth in Africa, the report strongly establishes the correlation between green economy and decent jobs.

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